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Weight gain occurs when you regularly eat more calories than you use through normal bodily functions and physical activity.

Losing weight means eating fewer calories and burning more energy through physical activity.

Calories and your weight

The amount of energy in an item of food or drink is measured in calories.

When we eat and drink more calories than we use up, our bodies store the excess as body fat. If this continues, over time we may put on weight.

As a guide, an average man needs around 2,500kcal (10,500kJ) a day to maintain a healthy body weight. For an average woman, that figure is around 2,000kcal (8,400kJ) a day. These values can vary depending on age, size and levels of physical activity, among other factors.

You can use the NHS website’s calorie checker to look up the calories of more than 150,000 different foods and drinks quickly and simply at www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/calorie-checker/

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Your BMI is a good indication of whether you’re a healthy weight. If your BMI is between 25 and 29.9, you are overweight. If it’s 30 and over you are obese and could be morbidly obese if it’s 40 and over. It’s easy to check your BMI on the NHS website (www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/bmi-calculator/).

Waist-to-hip ratio

The BMI is a general indicator but a more important measurement is the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). Fat around the belly is of more concern than elsewhere in the body because of the danger it poses to vital organs. For women, a waist measurement of 80cm (31.5 inches) or more is considered high risk, while for men, it’s 94cm (37 inches) or more.

To measure your waist:

✚ Find the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips;

✚ Wrap a tape measure around your waist, midway between these points;

✚ Breathe out naturally before taking the measurement.

Anyone who is obese has a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. You might think this isn’t a serious condition because it can be managed with medication, but there are many potentially life-changing complications that can arise from it, including loss of vision or blindness, kidney problems, and even amputations as a result of reduced blood supply to the feet and unhealed sores and infections in that area.

Pharmacy support

It’s no secret that a balanced, nutritious diet along with regular exercise is the safest way to lose weight and to keep it off long-term. But if you’re obese, you may need more help than this.

Some community pharmacies work in partnership with popular weight management clinics and can refer you to them. Others provide their own weight loss services which may include incentive schemes, exercise prescriptions or medication.

If appropriate, the pharmacist may be able to offer you clinically proven medication to help you lose weight, making sure it is suitable for you and your particular needs, and that it does not interact with other medicines you may already be taking. If the pharmacist identifies any extra medical issues, you will always be referred back to your GP.

Your local pharmacy team will help you to understand that weight loss is part of a journey towards a healthier lifestyle, not just a short-term fix. But small changes can make a big difference. A new study reveals that taking a brisk 30-minute walk, five times a week, is the most effective form of exercise to keep weight off; it also significantly reduces waist measurement, especially for women.

The benefits of losing weight can be profound for your mental and physical wellbeing, and for those with Type 2 diabetes it can be extremely powerful.

Significant weight loss and regular exercise can help to reverse the condition, meaning that many of those who are successful in dropping the pounds can reduce their medication or completely come off it. However, it’s important that this is only done with the supervision of a healthcare professional such as a pharmacist or GP.

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